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Small Businesses Step Out Of Black Friday's Shadow

American Express may have intended to give small merchants â¿¿ and card usage â¿¿ a boost in a tough economy, but Small Business Saturday is also helping small merchants get a bigger share of the spotlight and spending between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a shopping holiday dreamed up to get people excited about shopping online on the Monday after Thanksgiving. For some retailers, the sales they get after people push back from the Thanksgiving dinner table represents a significant chunk of profit for the year. That hasn't been so true for most small businesses. Ninety-one percent of the 1,003 small business owners said, in a survey commissioned by Bank of America, that the day after Thanksgiving has little, or no, effect on their profit.

"Black Friday doesn't do anything for us," says Leslie Leahy, owner of The Hitching Post, a gift shop in Reading, Mass. In fact, it's pretty quiet in town because so many people are at the malls and big-box stores, she says.

To make the most of Small Business Saturday, many small business owners offer discounts as part of a marketing strategy for the entire holiday season. Leahy had good results last year. Revenue at The Hitching Post rose 28 percent on the Saturday after Thanksgiving a year ago from the same day in 2011. She doesn't give discounts on her merchandise, but the $25 rebate from American Express drew customers. This year, she and other retailers in town are joining for a "buy local" weekend. She'll be serving drinks and treats for customers. American Express sends organizing kits to 50 chambers of commerce around the country to help communities create joint Small Business Saturday events, but many come up with ideas about how to promote the day on their own.

Some small business owners will have the kind of early bird specials that Black Friday is famous for.

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